Former Detroit Lions executive reveals backup plan if Calvin Johnson had been gone

SideLion Report

When the Detroit Lions got Calvin Johnson with the second overall pick in 2007, but a former team executive has revealed who the backup plan was.

One of the previous times the Detroit Lions had the second overall, they got wide receiver Calvin Johnson in 2007. The Oakland Raiders had the No. 1 overall pick that year, and took one of the all-time draft busts in quarterback JaMarcus Russell.

The 33rd Team gathered some former NFL executives for draft reflections. Former Lions team president Tom Lewand was one who had a story, and it involved the No. 2 pick in the 2007 draft.

Detroit Lions’ 2007 front office was split on what to do if Calvin Johnson was gone

We knew we wanted Calvin [Johnson] at No. 2,” said Tom Lewand, former President of the Detroit Lions. “We didn’t know who [Oakland Raiders owner] Al Davis was going to take at No. 1. We hoped he was going to take Jamarcus Russell, but we didn’t know. When we had Jamarcus in for a pre-draft interview, it was the worst interview—bar-none—I’ve ever sat in. He was looking at his watch the whole time, completely disinterested. He didn’t want to be there, and we actually kicked him out of the building. Our GM at the time, Matt Millen, actually picked up the phone and called Al Davis and told him about it—’don’t draft this guy. He’s going to kill your franchise.’ I looked at him, like, ‘what are you doing?! You’re just asking him to take Calvin!’ If the Raiders had taken Calvin, we were split. One group wanted Adrian Peterson another wanted an available pass rusher, specifically Gaines Adams. That was one of the few times, we had any kind of uncertainty like that.”

The funniest element of the story is Matt Millen calling Al Davis to warn him about Russell, which the venerable Raiders’ owner clearly ignored and surely saw as misdirection on the part of the then-Lions’ general manager.

Adrian Peterson of course landed with the division rival Minnesota Vikings seventh overall in the 2007, running around and through Lions’ defenses throughout his tenure in Minnesota. Gaines Adams went fourth overall to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and played just three NFL seasons.

So if Johnson had been drafted first overall by the Raiders in 2007, the Lions’ backup plan at No. 2 either would have turned out very well (a Hall of Fame running back who eventually landed in Detroit late in his career) or very poorly (a draft bust). But fortune smiled on them when Oakland went with Russell, and a Hall of Fame receiver landed in Detroit without question.

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